Hyperion: Brief History of the Poem

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How the poem came to be written

      Before Keats had finished Endymion, occupied with the idea of writing an epic, from the last book of ‘Endymion’:

      It was clear in the mind of Keats that the next poem was going to be an epic. In one of his letters to Haydon, Keats wrote, “The nature of Hyperion will lead me to treat it in a more naked and Grecian Manner and the march of passion and endeavor will be undeviating”. Keats was also sure that he was going to base his poem more on Apollo than on Hyperion. Apollo being the god of poetry, Keats wanted to portray in his poem, an ideal poet and it was but natural that Keats’s concept of an ideal poet was to be based upon his own conception and understanding of poetry. Apollo was fated to be no other than Keats himself. So it is in third book of ‘Hyperion’ that Keats fulfills the promise and in the process for portraying Apollo, Keats in fact narrates the history of his own soul.

Why the poem was left unfinished?

      Having seen how Hyperion came to be started, let us also look for a while as to how the poem was finished (left unfinished). While writing the first two books of Hyperion Keats was well aware that he was not doing justice to the real cause of poetry because in his opinion all poetry was to be the natural voice of the poet whereas in the first two books of the poem he was speaking in the borrowed voice of Milton. Keats could not afford to subdue his natural self for long. Moreover, he had started realizing that he had not gained enough poetic maturity, which is essential for writing a pure epic. Being dedicated to real poetry Keats knew that before making an experience a part of a literary piece, the writer must undergo the experience himself.

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